Thoughts by Bruno Bernardino

Beefing up Privacy

Why and how I’ve become more concerned about my privacy.

December, 2016

Cameras are watching you

Photo by Matthew Henry

For the longest time my mindset about Privacy had been “if I’ve got nothing to hide, I don’t need to worry about it”, and I know a lot of other people think similarly.

Recently I’ve read (or viewed or listened to — can’t remember where it was, so if someone knows, please tell me so I can update this article) something that changed my mind. Drastically.

Secrecy vs Privacy

Everyone knows what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door.

So, what you do in the bathroom isn’t a secret, but you want it to be a private affair.

This was a game changer for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have secrets (like everyone), but this is about making sure that what I want to be private, remains private.

So it’s not about the things I want to hide, but about the things I am just not interested in having anyone seeing.

Applying Mindfulness

For a long time I’ve been wanting to be less dependent on companies I don’t believe have core values aligned with mine (it’s not that all their values are wrong, but some, especially around methods of advertising and data mining), and this was a big chance to look around and choose the ones that I think are more aligned and I’d love to support more.

Changes so far

These are roughly the changes I’ve made so far:

  1. I started using WhatsApp instead of Hangouts for IM (painless; SMS are very rare for me);
  2. I started using DuckDuckGo instead of Google (painless);
  3. I started using Firefox Nightly instead of Google Chrome (painless, though the external dev tools isn’t ideal);
  4. I started using ProtonMail instead of Gmail/Inbox (this was a big one, but it’s been painless after a couple of days of initial setup);
  5. I started using Little Snitch and Micro Snitch to inspect connections (took a while getting used to it, but after a few days of a lot of reviewing, new rules rarely show up now);
  6. I started using Apple/iCloud Maps, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Numbers, and Pages, instead of Google’s Maps, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Sheets, and Docs (took a couple of days to move everything over, and painless afterwards);
  7. I deactivated my Facebook account (I hadn’t used it in a long time, but I noticed some people expected me to answer if they sent an IM through there, and I wanted to remove that expectation — painless);
  8. I installed uBlock Origin (DuckDuckGo and some other domains whitelisted — painless);
  9. I started using TunnelBear on our Macs and iPhones. It’s been pretty amazing (painless);
  10. I’ve used Nopes in our Macbooks ever since the first Kickstarter came out.
  11. I’ve switched from Google Drive to Tresorit. It’s pricey but it has a nice UX and great local search.

Suggestions (for you and me)

I would love to see some nice alternatives for:

  1. iCloud/Apple Maps/Photos/Contacts/Calendar/Reminders/Numbers/Pages (it’s fine right now, but I’d prefer not be tied to an ecosystem, and I’m hoping ProtonMail will launch nice alternatives eventually)

Here are some things I learned and suggestions I’d make if you’re planning on tackling any of these changes:

  1. AirVPN was a terrible experience for me. It was slow and I only got a refund because it was paid through PayPal.
  2. Don’t try to export your past data (emails, calendar events, reminders). Focus on having data flowing into the new places instead. Let bygones be bygones.
  3. You don’t need to pay for basic privacy services and products, but if you want good quality you should, and when you do, you’re supporting those who are “going against the flow”, and if you think the flow is heading in the wrong direction, your support helps fight that.

And what about you? Have you focused on your privacy? Do you have any good tips or questions? I’d love to hear all about it!

Bruno Bernardino

Written by Bruno Bernardino.
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